Flight attendants from Hong Kong's flagship airline Cathay Pacific threatened a summer strike Thursday if management does not scrap a new policy to reduce salaries and perks for cabin crew. The warning came after a two-day sit-in held by flight attendants inside Terminal 1 of the city's Hong Kong International Airport, which failed to win any concessions. "If ... [CEO] Mr. [Ivan] Chu decides to not respond, we have no other choice but to start promoting the strike [among members]," head of the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, Dora Lai, said at the airline's headquarters. Around 200 cabin crew who had been staging the airport sit-in also gathered at the headquarters to continue their protest. They chanted, "Respect the union," and held up placards reading: "No more Cut! Cut! Cut!" and: "Cathay Pacific cabin crew strike." Lai said the union would mobilize its 6,400 members to strike for two weeks starting on Aug. 18 if the company did not listen to their demands.
The protests kicked off on Tuesday in response to cuts made by the airline. Under the new rules, members of the cabin crew who joined the airline after April 16 will only see their wages rise to HK$159.40 ($20.56) per hour after their first three years with the company, down from HK$176.80 for those who signed contracts before April 2. The union is also protesting cuts to lunch allowances for attendants flying through Melbourne, Australia, and a legal protection clause that it says the airline has deleted from its operational manual. The clause says Cathay Pacific will cover legal costs resulting from any incident that occurs while cabin crew are on duty, according to the union. Lai said that they were still hoping to talk with Chu and avert the strike. "We just want to have our company give us what we had before," she said.
The airline said it was prepared to meet with the union but that it would take time to arrange. "We just received the invitation, we probably have to check the schedule," said Maggie Yeung, the airline's general manager of cabin crew. "The company is confident our staff will put passengers first for whatever they do. We will keep close dialogue [with them] and hope to solve the problem quickly without causing impact on our customers." In 2012, the cabin crew union threatened to take action, which would have seen flight attendants stop smiling to passengers and refusing to serve them alcohol after a proposed pay raise fell short of their demands, but it later called it off after the company pledged to improve the terms. In December, the airline's pilots union said nearly 2,000 pilots were starting work-to-rule action - working only their contractual hours - after long-running talks over pay and working hours broke down.
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